What does the term “natural” mean on a label? Does it mean anything? Should it mean anything? Good questions. And complicated ones, judging from the list of questions the FDA needs your help in answering.
The FDA has resisted defining “natural” in food product labeling, including whether foods that are genetically engineered, or contain genetically engineered ingredients, can use the term. Back in 1991, the agency set out to issue regulations but abandoned the effort and has since held to an informal policy that “natural” means
nothing artificial or synthetic (including color additives regardless of source) has been included in, or has been added to, a food that would not normally be expected to be in the food.
The only official legal requirement for using the description “natural” on a food label is that it not be misleading or false, which is forbidden by the Food, Drug & Cosmetics Act of 1938. In that appetite-suppressing way of statutory language, “food” is defined by the Act as
articles used for food or drink for man or other animals, chewing gum, and articles for used for components of any such article.
For regulatory purposes, dietary supplements are also considered foods in most cases. (more…)